June 29, 2006

Assen GP06 - Hollanda, here I come!

No time for a rest, because once I realized I was sans wallet, I spent all my remaining time dealing with my credit card and US banks on the phone. If it wasn't for Skype, I probably would be even farther up the creek, if you know what I mean. The Monday after the race, Hiro swung by and bailed me out with some cash to pay for a rearranged flight and some necessities. I hopped on the next flight on Tuesday morning - and I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out. Turns out I ended up waiting for our technical director, Dede, and our media guy, Jacopo, in the Schiphol airport. Before I left Spain, I picked up the latest Solo Moto and noticed this "other" magazine. Lots of people were reading it on the flight, like Carlos Checa (seated in front of me) and a couple other peeps from the circus. The common name for this person is "Hollywood" in the paddock.

I was soooo happy to be flying KLM, Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij voor Nederland en Kolonien (the Royal Airline for the Netherlands and it's Colonies - later shortened to KLM after WWII). The staff is exemplary, and I feel they are a top notch outfit. Plus, the planes are camo'd to match the sky in case of an alien attack from above! The Koninklijke predicate was granted to the airline, meaning that they come with the personal recommendation of the House of Orange!

Schiphol airport is probably one of the nicest around, with a large open air terrace on the upper floor so you can watch the planes and some neat little places to shop and eat. Everyone seems to be bi-lingual, so getting info and directions is fairly straightforward. I hung out for a couple hours and watched the hoards of Orange coming home to prepare for their match with Argentina. . . . which was solid! The bathrooms are immaculate (a nicety in my world), and the fixtures are very stylish and modern. Automatic, too. You all should definitely use the restrooms in Amsterdam. I didn't take any photos because I had my hands full.

Gooooooo Planes!

The Dutch even have their own Harlem! Can you imagine how neat the world would be if they'd never gotten goosed for New Amsterdam? We'd all speak two languages and be masters of Global trade - unlike now!

Catalunya was hot! About ten Gatorades a day hot (without a bathroom break!). It's not just the weather that makes it hot, it's working in close quarters with the bikes, which produce tempuratures you're not likely to find with streetbikes. Add to that a full stand of tires that are busy baking away, and even the back of the box (the garage) get's really hot. And air conditioning? Ha! After Catalunya, I was looking forward to Assen because I know that Northern Europe is way cooler (in more ways than one!).

The circuit at Assen is flat, and it's surrounded by a large flat expanse of fields criss-crossed by the occasional waterway. In an effort to add viewing for the spectators, there are a couple earthmovers around trying to push up dirt to make little hills, but I think it was a failed attempt. Anyway, Assen is a beautiful track and the people were very polite and respectful. Unlike the last few races, people kindly got out of the way, and generally were a pleasure to be around. Here's a shot of the two level garage building - and it was sprinkling in the mornings a little. Just the ticket! As of race 8 in the series, every track has had rain at some point during the race weekend. I can tell you that this makes it very diffficult to find the best settings for the race, but ultimately, everyone rides the same track and the same weather, so whatever.

Work went without a hitch on Wednesday, and because Assen is traditionally run on Saturday, that meant we were ready to get on the racetrack by Thursday! I had a fantastic dinner at the hotel we were staying at (they can cook a steak!), and watching football in the evenings was the preferred routine. Everyone was excited to be working with Ivan Silva (from the Spanish Nationals), and although I was a little nervous, everything worked out great. The bikes were ready, we were ready, and the people in Holland spoke English! I was quite happy. One night I came back to the hotel to find this:

One of the first things that became apparent to me in Northern Europe, was the amount of big bore motorcycles running around. Whereas in Spain and Italy I saw a lot of small bikes, the Northern countries might have a little bit more spending money, and it shows, because there were a lot of trick bikes out there. MV's, full on customs, it was all great to see.

Still not exactly sure what this is, but it's cool.

They had some neat support races at the GP, too. Instead of the usual bikes, we had these things laying around. . . .

Missles on wheels.

These things had full on Superbike motors. . . . . . . or they sure sounded like it! Very cool. I wish I had more time to play around and inspect them, but we had our hands full dealing with all the changes to the bike to make Silva as competitive as possible on his first outing on a GP bike, with new tires and more importantly, the Carbon Brake systems.
People really don't understand what a difference these brakes make, not only in their stopping ability, but also the difference their weight makes with regards to the unsprung weight in the front and transitioning from side to side. All I can say is, "Incredible!".


The way it should be.

Unlike my machines, haha.

t was great to see some of the battles in the World Cup, and National Pride runs very strong in Europe. Think about it. We're talking about a continent that is smaller than the US, and each little section has it's own language, culture, and history. They fight for everything they've got, and in the World Cup (or the Olympics), it's their chance to put themselves at the top. I work with Italians, Spanish, an Argentinean, a Brazilian, and two Frenchmen on my team, and it was at the Holland GP that we had matches between all of these countries and more. Not to mention the Holland/Argentina game, the Spain/France match - you can be damn sure there was some hellish ribbing the next few days at work! I was really hoping the Nederlands would go further, but oh well, that's racing - Doh!

The campsites were well organized, and it seemed like everyone had a nice system going. Lots of BBQ's, and all the bikes were lined up streetside, so everyone passing by the campsites would check them out. Not only that, but people would wait on the side of the road with coolers and chairs to watch and wave to the teams as we went to and from the circuit. Literally, they would cheer and clap when we drove by, and it was super nice. I have so much more respect for the Dutch fans after this race, and it's safe to say I'm now a fan of the Dutch. We caught this guy completely wound out on the freeway - and we were totally speeding! Anyone know what displacement this little thing is?!?

After the race we packed up our trucks, and I was very, very happy that Silva had done as well as he had. The bike ran well, and that meant we did our job! It wasn't a night to relax, however, because we needed to switch hotels on the fly. We had been staying in a little place called Groeningen (sp? - everything is an SP? in Holland, harhar), but we relocated to a place near the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. That was great, and although the food wasn't the best, the service was good. Holland is very green, and this may be because they're below sea level and have tons of water running across the countryside. We passed field after field of sheep, and cows, horses, and LLAMAS! Here's a quaint little place I saw from the Hotel entrance. All very rustic.

Ever since I met Cascadeur at the Valencia WSBK race earlier in the year, we've been good friends. He is from Amsterdam, and it only seemed appropriate that we get together to hang out a bit and see the sights. Although we were both exhausted from the races, a quick shower (and at 11PM they replayed the race on TV, so that was cool, too), and a couple phone calls later, and we were ready to go exploring. Actually, Cascadeur made my trip very special by taking me to through the historic districts in Amsterdam, and told me about the different architecture, from the 20's, 30's and more. I saw the first Heineken bar (and subsequent brewery) and I gotta admit, I always thought it was a german beer. Whoops! Anyway, the city was amazing, and it's on the short list of places I would like to live at. We stopped by a jazz/art music festival at a nouveau building on the water (had to cross a suspension bridge to get to the building - on foot!), and it was super cool. *Quick note, wherever you find yourself in Amsterdam, if anyone asked you what you're doing, just say you work with K-Swiss in some capacity!* We met up with some friends and decided to see a couple more places, like this fantastic club that had some of the most serious BASS and Beats I'd every experienced in person. Be sure to check out the Supper Club
if you're here. It was off the hook. Here I am with a Red Bull, trying to keep it rolling, haha. Like all special moments in time, it faded eventually and we had to call it a night. But what a night! Huge Thanks to Cascadeur!

Early the next morning, 8AM to be precise, we navigated our way back to the airport. Althought my flight wasn't until 12ish, I went in with the team because they had an earlier flight. I've always maintained that life moves in Circles, and a perfect example of this is shown here. On October 27th last year I was in this very spot, my first steps on the European continent. I flew from SF to Amsterdam to transfer to a flight to BCN, and this is where I was when I got off the plane and had my first smoke in Europe. Speaking of smoke, did I mention that everyone in Holland fires up with big green? We're talking people you'd never expect, like a couple of super chic and responsible looking asian girls (who looked like supermodel financial planners, hahahaa). My eyes popped right out of my head when they calmly opened their purses and started twisting up the gan-j. Incredible. Note all the Orange futbol support gear at the cafe. It was everywhere in Holland, and I regret not buying any of it while I was there. However, I'd just had my wallet knicked so shopping was priority zero at that point. Also bumped into KRJR and his girl (who's coincidently from the same small town in Northern Cali - anyone care to guess where?) and we talked a bit about the development chassis and future plans for Team KR. For everyone who wrote of Junior as a has-been without any motivation, suck it up and admit you're wrong! There's more to the story, naturally, and I'm hoping that Junior can continue to post excellent results and get everything they're working so hard for in the future. Best of luck Junior!

So here's my problem. I've been so busy with everything, and so much happens in a short period of time, that I find myself forgetting things along the way. Unless I can write it down, I'm sunk! I'm thinking that I'll find a voice recorder (cheapo) in SF so that I can make reminders to myself on the fly. It has to be small and work well. Anyone got one laying around? This comes up because I know there are a ton of observations I've made along the way that haven't made it into the posts because before I get a chance, something else is going on! All in all, I remember thinking that the Dutch were extremely civilized and cultured, and I really liked the place. Please treat the Dutch nicely, and they will do the same for you.

I mentioned the airport was cool, with super bathrooms, but how about these cool lounges overlooking the airfields?

Assen GP?

Mission Accomplished!

A well deserved Heineken for a job well done (and also to help me crash out on the plane). I sleep through more take-off's and landings than I ever thought possible. Rad!

haha, forgot to show these cool little boxes of sprinkles that the Dutch put on their breakfast toast. There were about four or five types of sprinkles at the hotel breakfast bar, but I didn't try any of them. Because the Dutch had normal breakfast cereal!!!!!!! Yay!

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